Sunday, March 31, 2013

Not Going Gently

Steve M. of No More Mister Nice blog finds that Dr. Ben Carson, who excoriated "the PC police" as he flogged right wing themes at the National Prayer Breakfast, has gone on a national apology tour.  He notes the irony and adds

right-wing strategists also worry that the party is perceived as homophobic. So they don't want their new star having a genuinely anti-PC response to the current controversy: Hey, I said what I said. If you don't like it, tough. The party and the right don't want a new provocateur -- a new Ann Coulter or Steve King. They want someone who can thread the needle, delivering the right-wing boilerplate while appealing to swing voters. So he has to deliver nice wingnuttery.

If his apology isn't being orchestrated by either the GOP or Fox (Fox being a possible next employer after his retirement from Johns Hopkins, which is coming up shortly), then, at the very least, he's figured out that he'd better make this embarrassment go away if he wants continued access to the starmaker machinery.

Carrying the torch for corporations and the wealthy is de rigeur for Republicans, but putting the words gay, NAMBLA, and bestiality into the same sentence is just so 2012.  Carson had to back off. We cannot be sure whether the strategic retreat from his extremist remarks were his own idea. And, as SM notes, is it not

clear who engineered his move into the spotlight -- was it all the doctor's idea, or has he been consulting from the very beginning with Fox News, the Republican Party, or both? Whose idea was it for him to get in the president's face at the Prayer Breakfast, with calls for a flat tax and harsh words for Obamacare?

According to Wikipedia, the annual National Prayer Breakfast is hosted by members of the United States Congress but organized "on their behalf" by The Fellowship Foundation, also known as The Family, a group to which, oddly and disturbingly, Hillary Clinton once belonged.

Doug Coe, head of The Fellowhip, will argue that the group, to which several members of the United States Congress belong (and whose founder began the event) is dedicated to love of Jesus Christ.   It is, however, justifiably criticized by some Christian groups, who recognize it as sort of Christian Lite, and it bears curious similarities to a cult.  Coe himself has warned “The more you can make your organization invisible, the more influence it will have."

Started as a response to the New Deal, it is also right-wing politically.  We learn from Wikipedia that journalist Jeff Sharlet  

did intensive research in the Fellowship's archives, before they were closed to the public. He also spent a month in 2002 living in a Fellowship house near Washington, and wrote a magazine article describing his experiences. In his 2008 book about the Family, he criticized their theology as an "elite fundamentalism" that fetishizes political power and wealth, consistently opposes labor movements in the US and abroad, and teaches that laissez-faire economic policy is "God's will." He criticized their theology of instant forgiveness for powerful men as providing a convenient excuse for elites who commit misdeeds or crimes, allowing them to avoid accepting responsibility or accountability for their actions.

Dr. Carson's invitation to speak at the 2013 edition of the National Prayer Breakfast was not part of a conspiracy, nor was he an insidious plant by The Fellowship.  But the organization knew what it was getting in him, a respectable promoter for corporate American and a Christian enthusiast who is not threatening (at least until he started talking about the gay community).  At the Breakfast, for instance, Carson misleadingly argued

we’ve reached the point where people are afraid to actually talk about what they want to say because somebody might be offended. People are afraid to say Merry Christmas at Christmas time. Doesn’t matter whether the person you’re talking to is Jewish or, you know, whether they’re any religion. That’s a salutation, a greeting of goodwill. We’ve got to get over this sensitivity. You know, and it keeps people from saying what they really believe.

Dr. Carson might have understood that saying "Merry Christmas" to a non-Christian can be offensive.  Or he might have applauded the non-Christians who have learned to adjust because they realize some people say "Merry Christmas" merely out of habit. A philosophically coherent conservatism might have yielded enlightening debate.  Instead- as The Family would heartily approve- he contended that "Merry Christmas" is merely "a salutation, a greeting of goodwill."

But "Merry Christmas" is not a part of any Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist tradition nor of any religion, save Christian.  To suggest otherwise is to promote an empty Christianity and is thoroughly disingenuous.  And to suggest that a reluctance to issue that greeting arises spontaneously from an intimidated populace is reprehensible, given that the retail sector has led the secular charge Carson appears offended by.  He has learned the Republican's 12th Commandment:  Thou must never criticize the private sector.

Whether Dr. Benjamin Solomon runs for political office, is picked up by Fox News, or chooses some other forum to advance his cause, this is one man, as Steve M. recognizes, who is not going to slide into obscurity.

                                                      HAPPY EASTER

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